No, I'm not a professional chef (although my Dad was & he taught us all how to cook...) and don't even enjoy cooking all that much as a hobby, but I do <like> to eat decent food - so I cook more out of self-defense, than any great love of the process.
Up until a few months ago we used an el-cheapo set of stainless Chinese Sabatier knock-offs, which gave the appearance of real cutlery with very little danger of actually being able to cut anything - then we stumbled across a Japanese knife and found that slicing tomatoes is easier than splitting kindling ...
Now all the Chi-com horrors live in a box in the basement, and we've a block with these knives by the stove:
- 210mm Ryusen Yanagiba - a good slicing and carving knife, I think folks buy Yanagibas 'cause they're so damn pretty, but other shapes may be more useful
- 200mm Tosagata Bunka Hocho - a solid, heavy blue steel blade for whacking cabbages or kings into submission
- 160mm Ryusen Honesuki - a demon for deboning/stripping poultry or fish
- 140mm Shun Santoku - slightly thick, a bit heavy, but it's useful, willing, and tenderly made by robots
- 115mm Shun Mini Chef - a very useful size, thin, sharp, slices and rock cuts beautifully, but soulless
- 100mm Tosagata Pairing - a brace of these completes the rack, very sharp, pretty, our most often go-to knives
- 90mm Shun Pairing - sharp, comfortable, but fairly fragile and soulless
Sadly, I'm cheap - there's a lot of Shuns because they're what I found used on Craigslist, the Ryusens came from the Epicurean Edge sale, and the Tosagata's are inherently inexpensive, funky knives of great usefulness.
Not to knock the Shuns, they're very decent knives at knock-down prices, but they're also obviously a triumph of laser-cut, CAD-CAM robotics over inanimate steel. This makes my experience of them very different than that of the Tosagata knives which just as obviously were made by some sweaty, bad-tempered, garlic-breathing individual beating the pooh out of knife blanks until his hangover subsides.
Yeah, it is an aesthetic thing, but I will choose beer-breath over automation for most things, there's just this satisfaction in using the Tosagata and Ryusen knives that the Shuns lack.
Anyway that's my story & I'm sticking to it.....
Here's a picture of the Tosagata Bunka: